News Flash: Impending National Symphony CBA Terms

A source inside the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) has provided details about the orchestra’s new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that reinforce the observation that not all orchestras are suffering in the current economy. The NSO musicians conducted a ratification meeting the morning of 9/3/12, the same day the agreement was set to expire and although the results have not yet been announced, the negotiating committee recommending that members ratify the terms for the new four year agreement. Highlights from the proposed terms include:

  1. 2012/13: 0.5 percent increase over the base weekly salary of $2,504.
    2013/14: two percent increase.
    2014/15: two percent increase.
    2015/16: 2.35 percent increase (special terms for this year wherein some of the increase may be converted to an employer contribution to a 403(b) or similar retirement plan).
  2. Minor adjustments to health and dental contribution levels per premium increases.
  3. New caps to employer provided instrument insurance.
  4. Modest increases in tour per diem rates.
  5. Maximum concert length during tours increased from 135 minutes (2.25 hours) to 150 minutes (2.5 hours).
  6. Separate tour provisions now possible via side letter negotiated by the orchestra committee and ratified by rank and file vote.
  7. New audition provisions that provide increased musician input in final audition round in exchange for ability of music director to advance up to two candidates to final round for titled or solo position.
  8. Modest changes to work rules via scheduling weekend and evening service.

Overall, changes to work rule and non-compensation terms are modest in nature while the improvements to base compensation are self evident. Likewise, the terms help the NSO maintain its growing status as a major destination ensemble alongside the ranks of Chicago, Boston, New York, San Francisco, and LA.

We’ll examine these terms at a later date once the organization releases additional information.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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